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John records Jesus making a statement which is open to different interpretation:

John 14:1

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me (ESV)
“Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. (TLV)
μὴ ταρασσέσθω ὑμῶν ἡ καρδία πιστεύετε εἰς τὸν θεόν καὶ εἰς ἐμὲ πιστεύετε

πιστεύω can mean believe or trust. καρδία is clearly singular but hearts may be better.

The verb πιστεύετε is repeated and could be imperative or indicative.

In his commentary C.K. Barrett states there are four possible interpretations:

  1. Imperative/imperative: Believe in God and believe in me.
  2. Indicative/indicative: You believe in God and you believe in me.
  3. Indicative/imperative: You believe in God; believe in me also.
  4. Imperative/indicative: (If you) Believe in God and you (will) believe in me.

The fourth is not impossible but Barrett states "it means taking the former clause an an imperatival condition, the latter as an apodosis introduced by καi." Also if the verbs are taken differently, would it be better to understand one as believe and the other as trust?

Is this an intentionally fluid composition or is there one meaning intended?

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    Not everyone believes in God. Not all those who believe in the Father have similar faith in the Son. The fluid composition allows the statement to speak or relate to a wider audience. Barrett's 4th interpretation is not out of the question as it suggests that those who believe in the Father will believe in the Son (cf Jn 5:37-47).
    – Nhi
    Commented Feb 10 at 12:57

2 Answers 2

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It is interesting that "believe" is repeated in πιστεύετε εἰς τὸν θεόν καὶ εἰς ἐμὲ πιστεύετε. It is also significant that the object in the second part εἰς ἐμὲ is fronted.

I would think that whether the first πιστεύετε is imperative or indicative, it would be unnecessary to repeat the verb, especially since Greek prefers not to have such superfluous repetition. It would be enough to say: πιστεύετε εἰς τὸν θεὸν καὶ εἰς ἐμὲ which might mean You trust in God and in me or Trust in God and in me.

Jesus is apparently not putting a question mark on their belief in God. After all, all the Jews believed in God. But who was Jesus? Most Jews did not believe that he was sent from God and the disciples might well be in doubt, especially as he is going to be killed against their expectations.

So, I would opt for indicative/imperative: You are (already) believing in God. (So) also believe in me.

(I do not know why the Greek accent does not print properly.)

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  • +1 Very good point about the placement of the verbs. The composition of the two statements is different implying the verbs should be taken differently. Commented Feb 15 at 18:55
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Here is my very literal translation of John 14:1 with added notes to show the grammatical details:

Do not let your [pl.] heart [sing.] be troubled [imp]. You [pl.] believe/trust [ind.] in God and you believe/trust [ind.] in Me.

Let us observe several features of these two sentences:

  • ταρασσέσθω (let be troubled) is imperative mood
  • ὑμῶν (you) is plural
  • καρδία (heart) is singular
  • πιστεύετε (believe/trust) is indicative plural in both cases. However, with the same spelling, the verb could be imperative. But this appears to be out of character with Jesus' teaching to have three imperative verbs in succession (as per Ellicott and Meyer who both claim that there are three successive imperative verbs). The reasons stated below I prefer to take what I think is the more natural meaning of the indicative mood.

Therefore:

  • the first sentence is a command
  • the second sentence is a statement of fact, "you trust God and you trust me". That is, it appears that the disciples could be untroubled because they trusted God and trusted Jesus.
  • the primary meaning of πιστεύετε is "trust" - complete reliance upon someone (which cannot be done without belief!). This is the key to carrying out Jesus' command to be untroubled. This is a regular theme of Jesus' ministry and teaching to "fear not" as per Matt 1:20, 20:28, 28:10, Mark5:36, Luke 2:10, 8:50, 12:7, 32, John 6:20, 12:15, etc.
  • the singular "heart" refers essentially to the collective heart of the group of disciples/followers, less than their individual hearts.

Thus, I would more idiomatically translate John 14:1 as:

Do not let you [collective] heart be troubled [because] you trust God and trust Me.

Thus, one might see Jesus' teaching in John 14:1-4 in the following way - Jesus offers a series of reasons why the disciples should not be anxious (= troubled) about the unknown future:

  • V1: they trust in God and trust in Jesus
  • V2: the Father's house has plenty of room for them [ie, none were going to miss out]
  • V3a: Jesus promised that He was going there to prepare the way
  • V3b: Jesus promised to return and take them to be with Him in the Father's house
  • V4: they knew the way to the place where Jesus is going [and that way is Jesus Himself as per V6]
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  • So Barrett is wrong in stating the verbs could be imperative? Commented Feb 8 at 22:31
  • @RevelationLad - the "troubled" is imperative. The "trust" in indicative. See biblehub.com/interlinear/john/14-1.htm
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 8 at 22:55
  • This site shows the first use as imperative. Blue Letter Bible blueletterbible.org/kjv/jhn/14/1/t_conc_1011001 Maybe Barrett is correct in that it can be taken as either indicative or imperative? Commented Feb 8 at 23:17
  • I'm sorry my comment wasn't more clear. The link provided shows the first use of πιστεύετε is indicative. It also shows the second use of πιστεύετε is imperative. Which goes to my original question about Barrett's commentary stating the use could be either imperative or indicative. Commented Feb 9 at 1:13
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    @DerÜbermensch - my apologies - I worded that poorly. My intent was that Ellicott and Meyer claimed that there were three successive imperative verbs. I will clarify my answer.
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 9 at 5:50

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